This page includes tips for increasing your presence in an online course, as well as that of your students. This is especially important for online or blended courses, as they often lack the personal element that exists in in-person courses. Instructor presence can be increased with by setting up a profile page within your course, maintaining announcements, participating in and facilitating discussions, and creating videos content. Community presence can be built by asking students to collaborate and interact with each other through introductions, discussions, group work, and other means.
Setting up a Profile Page
When you're leveraging an online learning platform for teaching and facilitation, your instructor persona is an extension of your academic brand, but it also serves as a way to maintain community and humanize your course. Remember to keep your profile page updated each term and consider setting it as your course home page, part of your syllabus or a link within an course introduction module.
What Should I Put On My Profile Page?
Students may access your profile to learn about you and connect with you during the semester. Here are a few ideas of things to include in your profile:
Display Name and Title
Include your office hours or instructions for setting up meetings
Do you have a website? Department Site?
The default photo in Canvas is your ID Card photo, taken by Campus Card Services. Consider updating your photo by visiting Campus Card Services to take a new picture or on your course home page or syllabus, insert an updated picture of yourself.
Videos are a great way to increase instructor presence. Video can be an engaging venue for presenting information, but can also work to build community. Instead of uploading a complete lecture presentation with a voiceover, consider breaking your videos down into focused topics that you cover during the lecture.
In addition to that, making a video of yourself introducing the course and allowing students to get to know you and linking it in your Profile Page, is a great way to increase instructor presence and add a human element to your course. Try taking it a step further by creating throughout the course to introduce or conclude modules, or highlight other points of interest that show a little bit of your personality.
Consider filming these videos in a more personal location, such as your home or a quiet park. Videos can easily be made on Panopto, or even recorded on a smartphone and uploaded directly into Canvas.
Engaging students with one another is a highly effective method of building a community presence in the course.
At the beginning of the course, you could include your personal introduction video as the description of a discussion and encourage students to do the same, either by having them submit a 1-2 minute introduction video of themselves or writing a discussion post with images attached. An open discussion can also be made, so that students can post questions and engage with one another throughout the duration of the course. Discussions can also be a great place to hold ungraded group work, such as think-pair-shares, and brainstorming activities.
Students can use the collaborations tab of the course to work together on ungraded efforts. For example, students can create a collaboration to design a midterm or final study guide, or as a place to brainstorm ideas and share helpful articles and resources with one another.
Canvas offers a number of ways for students and teachers to communicate, including announcements, discussions, chat, and inbox. Encourage students to use these tools, not only to ask questions of the professor, but to engage with each other as well.
Student collaboration can be increased when it is done formally through group work. Brainstorms and discussions that occurred informally in discussions or collaborations can be used as starting points for students to create groups around topics of interest and create a project for grading. Students can work together on a document through collaborations, so it is not necessary that they meet in-person if the course is fully online. Collaborations allows for access to One Drive and Google Docs, so students can create documents, presentations, or spreadsheets. Additionally, video projects encourage students to take advantage of the technology available to them.